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Co-Parenting Strategies: How to Handle Visitation During the Holidays

The holidays are an important time to spend with family and loved ones, but complications can arise when a divorced couple is trying to navigate visitation during these times. If possible, finding an equitable way for children to spend time with both their biological mother and father during the holiday season can be extremely valuable and is a fundamental part of an effective co-parenting strategy. Here, the family law and child custody attorneys at Rodier Family Law discuss some best practices when determining a visitation schedule during the holidays that allows parents to engage in cooperative co-parenting.

Find a Good Time to Discuss Visitation

Ideally, visitation schedules for the holidays should be discussed well in advance when there is plenty of time to come to an agreement, so that both parties do not feel rushed. If this is not possible, schedule a time to discuss visitation when both parties will feel most relaxed, such as a quiet morning, a weekend day or after dinner. This will help both parties communicate more openly and effectively. Parents who are engaging in co-parenting should consider establishing a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly sit-down discussion that will allow them time to discuss important issues together regarding their child. Such a time would be a wonderful opportunity to also discuss a visitation schedule for the holidays. Try to discuss your holiday plans with family and loved ones prior to the discussion with your ex-spouse so that you can bring an accurate schedule to the discussion.  

Consider the Needs of All Parties

One of the most important parts of effective co-parenting is considering the needs of both parents of a child as well as the needs of the child. This should also apply when discussing a visitation schedule for the holidays. Consider each parent’s religious observances, traditions, needs and wants in order to create a visitation schedule that is equitable. If both parties are unable to consider each other’s needs, consider including a neutral third-party in the discussion to help ensure an appropriate visitation schedule is created. Finally, do not forget to consider your child’s needs as well. If a child has strong opinions about who they wish to spend specific holidays with, try to honor these wishes within the visitation schedule whenever possible. This will help your child feel that they have more control over their situation and may reduce any tension and stress they feel.

Choose a Visitation Schedule That Creates a Compromise

Ultimately, a fair visitation schedule will meet some of the desires of one party and some of the desires of the other, but will not necessarily meet all the desires of either party. Compromise is a critical component of co-parenting, and parents need to accept that compromise is the most effective way to ensure each parent spends quality time with their child during the holidays. Compromise can take many forms, but two common ways for co-parenting couples to create an equitable visitation schedule for the holidays includes:

Alternative Year Schedules

This compromise stipulates that each parent spends a holiday with their child on alternate years. Create a list of holidays each party celebrates and make a schedule that designates a holiday for each parent during the upcoming calendar year. The next year, the schedule should alternate, allowing each parent to spend time with their child on the holiday during which they didn’t spend time with their child the year prior.

Half-and-Half Schedules

This type of visitation schedule may require more communication and planning, but can allow for parents to spend more time with their children during holidays. In this type of compromise, parents can agree for their child to spend part of a holiday with one parent and part of it with the other parent. For example, the father and his family may spend time with the child on Christmas Eve, and the mother and her family may spend time with the child on Christmas Day.   

Consult a Family Law and Child Custody Attorney if Visitation Agreements are Not Upheld

Creating a fair and effective visitation schedule is one of the hallmarks of effective co-parenting, but this schedule is only as effective as both parties’ desires to uphold it. If one or both parents do not adhere to the visitation schedule, co-parenting can become extremely difficult. If you believe that your ex-spouse is not adhering to the child custody and visitation agreement developed during your divorce proceedings, it may be valuable to discuss your options with a family law and child custody attorney, such as the attorneys at Rodier Family Law. To learn more about the legal obligations of each parent in regards to child custody and visitation, contact the family law attorneys at Rodier Family Law today.